If you were asked to rapidly associate geographies with colour you’d probably say the Sahara is brown, the Amazon rainforest is green, the Andamans are blue and the Arctic Circle is — white.
All those answers are probably correct, save one. If the pictures on the following pages are anything to go by, the Arctic Circle is anything but white!
To most, the Arctic Circle brings visions of ice floes, snow mountains and frigid temperatures that only polar bears, with their insulating layer of lard, can survive.
This is true close to the North Pole, but in Lapland, which is the part of Finland within the Arctic Circle, summer and autumn are warm and wonderful seasons. Temperatures soar to the mid-twenties during summer.
In the fall, the stunning hues — locally called ‘Ruska’ or the changing of colours — make you feel like you’re inside the painting of an eccentric artist who’s gone a little berserk with red, orange and yellow.
My first sight of this Lappish autumn was in the form of an orange-gold blur outside the window of my train cabin. I was on express train 265 from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and had set the alarm to an hour before the train was expected to pull into Rovaniemi. These new, double-decker Finnish long distance trains feature such comfortable two-berth cabins that you definitely need an alarm to wake up. Each berth has a little digital clock.
The orange-gold was actually the scenery zipping by at 120 kph. Helsinki and its environs were still enjoying the last days of summer, but we’d travelled north overnight and had outrun summer. Here, autumn was already turning trees yellow and red.
Even though Rovaniemi is the administrative capital of Lapland, its railway station is a simple one building-and-two platform affair. I had a distinct sense of arriving at a little village rather than a city. The Europcar representative was waiting for me at the platform with the keys to my hired car — a very capable Volkwagen Golf.
I always feel a sense of excitement the minute I get behind the wheel at the start of a driving holiday. There is such a sense of adventure in setting off to drive new roads, and exploring places first hand without the shackles of a time table or a set route. Then there is also a great deal of anticipation about the photos I am going to click and the stories I’m going to tell.
My drive took me on a circuit of 800 km in Lapland, through little towns and villages including Luosto, Sodankylä, Saariselkä, Inari and Levi. Traffic consisted more of reindeers who thought they owned the road than other vehicles. Refreshment stops were at little huts called coffee houses where ever-smiling ladies bustled about serving hot chocolate and freshly-made berry crumbles.
The days on this trip were a kaleidoscope of colours featuring superb roads, one randy reindeer, wannabe Finnish Singing Sensations, sacred islands, cloud berries, lingonberies and blueberries and lakes that looked like looking glass.
Rishad is a freelance writer who loves to travel, preferably behind the wheel of a fast car.